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Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power
by Victor Davis Hanson
Edition: Hardcover
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Break Ranks !, March 5, 2002
Discipline wins over individual courage, despite Homer's enthralling duels between champions, a concept which the rational Greeks soon discovered; along with the concept of reason itself which is why The West Has Won.

Hanson believes that the Apache braves, murderously effective in surprise raids, would have lasted about half an hour at Gettysburg. At the battle of Poitiers the average Frank lumbered into battle with aprox 70 lbs of armor and arms, making him easy pickings for the light Muslim cavalry--had he broken ranks.

(In which case we'd all be debating whether The Koran should be read in public school, but that's another story)

Discipline and the determination to hold the ground, then an advance en masse wiped out the Saracens.

Hanson asserts discipline is even more important than terrain or numbers.--In all three of Alexander's decisive battles against the Persians, enemy forces chose the ground, not him. Still, Alexander was overjoyed that he would get to fight a pitched battle with his smaller army, rather than to have to continue to chase Darius.

At Gaugamela , when Alexander's left wing was about to break, the Persians decided that looting the camp was easier than fighting the Greek rear, thus giving Alexander time to break through their lines and massacre the bunch. Again, discipline carried the day.

Hanson believes that the free 'farmer-citizen' will be superior to a mercenary. A logical point which he does belabor at times to emphasize his thesis. And despite loopholes in his arguments-

(Were the Japanese freer than the Persian troops thus accounting for their very 'Western' resistance in the atolls of The Pacific against the USMC? Or were they equally servile
as the Persians during the battle at Midway, thus resulting in their defeat?)

-Nevertheless, the preponderance of evidence weighs in his favor.

Hanson seems a bit ambivalent about the 'great man theory' (the military genius commander)Although it would seem to fit in well with the Western concept of individualism. Perhaps because Hannibal was a 'great man' and the Romans made mincemeat of the Phoenician state despite the 'great man's' initial stunning victory at Cannae.

The Romans were decidedly 'Western' in their approach to war.

As to the 'guns and germs' counterargument as the primary reason for the success of The West, Hanson points out that the Spaniards sent out an expedition to Florida shortly after Cortes's victory which, despite its superior technology, got itself killed very dead indeed--the commander was no Cortes.

Incidentally, the chapter on Hernando Cortes is one of the most informative in this book; principally because of the misconceptions that it clears. No, the Aztecs did NOT believe the Spaniards were gods after the first couple of weeks after thy landed, and yes, though the Aztecs died in large numbers by smallpox, this was more than balanced by the bronchial ailments that plagued the tiny expeditionary force.
H.C. was a military genius.

As to the Tet offensive, Hanson rightly calls attention to the fact that it was a major victory for the American side despite the failure in intelligence to warn the troops, but an ultimate loss due to what he believes to be the 'criticism inherent in a free society.'

Is this a contradiction? He criticizes the conduct of the Vietnam war more vehemently than any leftist( though admittedly on strategic ideals) i.e; we should have invaded the North; winning hearts and minds is the goal of a missionary, not soldiers, and what kind of madness is it when there is no ground to hold or win, anyway?

Hanson should have concluded that the war was badly led from his own arguments.

Or, if one grants that a 'Western' type of conflict was untenable in Indochina we should have stuck with SOG/ Apaches to lead small anti insurgent forces.

As to the future, the author concludes that the armies of the USA and Europe are now, de facto 'mercenary'--no more free citizen farmers--but lower class kids trying to work their way up in society.

He's concerned as to whether the West will have the will to remain 'Western'--could we, as the Romans did after Cannae, muster up the resolve and manpower for 'shock battle' and decisive engagements which lead to unconditional defeat of the enemy?

The reader might recall that after the bombings of American embassies then President Clinton ordered an attack by cruise missiles on one of Osama's base in Afghanistan--for all the good it did us.

It was 'Western' only as far as technology (which Hanson argues is not enough). It was decidedly 'foreign' according to all the principles that this book articulates to be the backbone of Western warfare.

Good reading.

Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski
Kinski Uncut: The Autobiography of Klaus Kinski
by Joachim Neugroschel
Edition: Paperback
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Van Gogh of Acting., February 25, 2002
Want to become a movie star?
Go to coffee houses around college campuses, stand on a chair and recite the poetry of Francois Villon; the medieval (1431-1463) student who killed a priest in a tavern brawl, was subsequently acquitted but still had to flee Paris and live a life of crime among outcasts.
As you pass the hat you find that you're doing such a magnificent job that soon you'll be able fill entire sports arenas with Shakespeare's solliloquiess---Performing them that is; you'll do Richard the Third, and then the audience will wait breathlessly while you change costumes and come back in character as Hamlet. Repeat with Othello, etc.
See how easy it is? Now do it.
To say Kinski was talented, or that he lived on the edge, or that he was a bit too intense for his friends or wives is, of course, an understatement. Nor did fame and money do much to quench the anger or appetite of this outcast.
One of his wives, as she entered the hospital to deliver their child, wondered why all the prostitutes on the street waved at them and seemed so friendly. Herzog, despite plotting Kinsi's murder, kept using him as his leading man.
Yet the greatest tribute may be not Herzog's but the fact that, during his lifetime many fellow actors spoke about how kind Kinski was to work with--a true accolade to a narcissistic egomaniac who apparently never lost his humanity by the expedient method of never being able to stop being hurt by life.
As he put it, he never allowed his wounds to fully close. Though the reader might conclude that he was unable to have his wounds close, no matter how much he tried.
Speaking of method, Kinski slams 'method acting' in this book:
'These morons go into a sort of St. Vitus dance as an exercise before performing' and 'What is this idiocy? As if a school could teach me how to feel'
Less credible is his slamming of Herzog: 'A megalomaniac' and 'I kicked him... Herzog groveled' Especially when one considers that his most memorable performances were in Herzog's films.
Kinski opens his autobiography with a quote from one of his idols, Van Gogh. Too lengthy to repeat here but the essence of it being that all artists are cripples trying clumsily to express what was expressed only once-- by Jesus Christ.
Unsurprisingly, Kinski also toured Europe late in his life, reading from the gospels and insulting some audience members who did not share his view of Jesus as a criminal hunted down by society, while hugging others who shared his 'outcast' faith.
Kinski also wondered if he was the reincarnation of Paganini, arguably the most proficient techniqual violinist of all time, and, of course, an intense womanizer.
Kinski did not spend much time doubting his sanity, it seems he considered it a rather futile endeavor in a world where it was self evident that everybody was mad.
However, neither did he glamorize lunacy as a standard, there is nothing romantically sophomoric in his descriptions of being held in an insane assylum for a couple of weeks. It's more vivid and horrific than his description of being held in a POW camp for years.
He made certain he would not be be incarcerated for alleged (?) madness again, just as-- despite his extravagant lifestyle--he also made certain he would not suffer starvation again, as he did in his childhood.
For all actors or artists one plain piece of advice: Get this book. Despite exaggerations (or downrigth lies) this is a superb testimony by one of the greatest of all time.

Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
by Keith Johnstone
Edition: Paperback
Price: $27.21
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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rule Brittania!, February 22, 2002
I suggest that you follow Amazon's recommendation and buy it with the acompanying sequel "Impro for Storytellers"
Hmm...Let's see:
Once upon a time there was a brilliant little boy who lived in an alternative universe so he had mercifully never heard of Viola Spolin.
Therefore instead of following standard improv exercises such as 'mirror' or 'tug of war on the imaginary rope' He began creating his own.
These wre not dependant on the Spolin credo of agreeing on the 'Who, What, When and Where'. Rather our young hero was more fascinated by 'Why?' or in plainer English, 'Why should either the audience or the actors give a (expletive deleted) about this improv exercise? What's its value and moreover, could it apply to acting in general?
Consequently through experimentation, a contrary kind of courage ('My acting teachers told me never to make faces as it was untruthful, so I mugged whenever I could') and a curious interest in the transformative power of Mask work--which was out of fashion in The West since the fall of Athens--arrived at some startingly new discoveries for character work as well as Improv.
He then moved to Canada, opened his own troupe, and the rest, as they say is history . . .
Let's see, did I leave anything out? Oh Yes, a practical piece of advice and a cryptic remark to end this review:
1. If the library is burning and you have a choice of saving Stanislavski's trilogy or these two books, save Johnstone's
2. Beware of Boris (to say nothing of Igor)

An Actor Prepares
An Actor Prepares
by Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.01
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32 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Must Avoid!, February 21, 2002
This review is from: An Actor Prepares (Paperback)
Just Kidding.
Every actor should sit through this one and then balance it off by reading David Mamet's 'True and False' or for a better if less vehement critique Hornby's outstanding 'The End of Acting'

Personally, whenever I feel it would have been a happier world if Stanislavski had never been born I realize I've been spending too much time with film actors and so I go out and see bad theater.

( Not out of masochism it's just that if you see enough theater you're bound to run into some turkeys)

Usually the reason it's bad is because of some sin Constantin ranted against.

Ranting is actually an appropriate word to describe the style of his writings. He's not theorizing, he's discovered The Organic Truth Of The Universe, etc. All this dogmatising is forgivable when one realizes it's the outpouring of a Slavic soul, but it does tend to eclipse the fact that his system is--stripped of all the hyperbole--based upon, of all things, logic.

What's the objective? OK, play that.

Or if you wish a more detailed dissertation: To [...] with what you're feeling. Play the objective.

Otherwise you may weep and rave about but fail to find the brooch pinned to the curtain, like the student actress in this book.

Now does it work? Well, if you have faith in it. . .

The progression (some would say the degeneration) of Stanislavski in the US goes something like this: Charles Conrad (who taught for Meisner and never wrote anything, his is the Zen-style of Stanislavski) to Sandford Meisner (who taught for Strasberg and wrote an unintelligible book but who is much admired for getting method actors off their introspective derrieres and on their feet) Lee Strasberg who, unlike Stella Adler never met The Master himself, so felt free to um.. theorize even further, and Michael Checkhov, (the only great actor of the bunch who Stan considered his best student even though he rejected the system) whose mystical ideas are floating somewhere in the stratosphere.

Strasberg, by far the most influential, founded Method Acting (not to be confused with the Stanislavski System or 'The Method of Physical Action ' a short treatise in Creating a Role which emphasized remembered memory a.k.a. emotional memory which at times superseded the objective by demanding a Pavlovian type of identification/ connection which would ensure real tears.

In away he set theater back to before 'finding the brooch'

Later, Stanislavski himself rejected the emotional memory/pavlovian experiment after many of his actors started freaking out..

The main moral of an Actor Prepares is that if you're going to write a world changing treatise on acting, it helps if you've got a genius playwright like Michael's uncle whose plays you can produce.

The second is to play the--oops said that already.

May I also humbly recommend Mike Green's 'The Art of Coarse Acting' Shurtleff's 'Audition' Keith Johnstone's 'Impro' and Klaus Kinski's bio, for a sense of, if not sanity, at least a healthy dose of skeptical heresy?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2008 1:37 PM PDT

Ham On Rye
Ham On Rye
by Charles Bukowski
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An American Masterpiece, February 15, 2002
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
Do you enjoy great writing? Take Ham on Rye, open any chapter at random and read the first paragraph. . .
Bukowski is Hemingway with a sense of humor; J.D Salinger minus the pretensiousness. O'Henry minus the cuteness portion.
While he lived he aroused animosity from other authors. Truman Capote was quoted as saying "He just typewrites".
For his part he liked Hemingway, Dostoyevsky, John Fante, Celine and a few others whom he felt were speaking the truth as they saw it and lived it.
"Everyone else just seemed to be playing tricks with words".
No kidding.

Bukowski valued honesty in writing above all, and it doesn't get more honest than "Ham On Rye."
I wish we could all "just typewrite" as well.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2009 5:23 PM PDT

Tariki: Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace
Tariki: Embracing Despair, Discovering Peace
by Hiroyuki Itsuki
Edition: Hardcover
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21 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sad to the Bone, February 11, 2002
Life is torture, all of us die (hard to argue with that one) Hell is inevitable; it's here on earth right now, death is the end, suicide is a comfort. We are very insignificant beings essentially powerless to effect any real change and the best we can hope for is to embrace despair. And then there are the really depressing parts of this book.
However, like Blanche Dubois it's wonderful to depend (or at least be surprised) by the kindness of strangers.
Life is a Siberian concentration camp, but a fellow inmate may give you a flower and bring tears to your eyes in the realization that compassion exists amidst the damned.
Well, this is a fun book to give to anyone who annoys you by telling you to cheer up .
One might keep it by the door in case any Jehova's Witnesses knock, especially if they've been having a good day. It would also make an interesting Valentine's Day gift for your beloved, just in case she's nagging you into a wedding and you'd like to offer the alternative of a double suicide.
Itsuki writes about pain, sometimes eloquently, as in his narrative of The Dalai Lama , sometimes verging on obscenity as in the story of the mother whose terminally ill child is gasping for breath and Mom observes that "The gasps seemed like labor pains. . .the mother cheered her daughter on in death . . .Hurray!"
It's weird but Isuki's advice at times sounds like a self-help book turned upside down yet equally hoaky. Instead of telling us to smile and look on the bright side because it'll make us feel good, he tells us to weep and look on the dark side because it'll make us feel good.
This ain't profound but it sure sounds elevated as soon as he brings in Amida Buddha.
An entity which, from what I can gather exists in the archetypal Platonic realm (unlike Siddhartha, the Buddha, a human who actually lived) yet whose Presence is far more Real to his followers than a mere flesh and blood being.
Amida is the Buddha of Ultimate Compassion, and-- though there is no hope, really-- intoning his mantra 'Namu Amida Butsu' puts us in touch with compassion, frees us from the futile desire to escape our doom and best of all----
--Well I'm not sure. According to Itsuku, Zen was for the aristocracy who had time to enage in 'self-salvation' unlike the peasants who had to rely on 'Other Power' (Amida) and followed The Pure Land Sect.
(Actually I doubt it was that simple, having met a Korean Zen master who began each day by prostating himself 106 times and invoking Amida's help. It seems a human need to ask for divine compassion. Likewise I suspect that even the bravest of Stoics would have snuck a prayer to Zeus now and then.)
It seems the peasants believed they would be reborn into a paradise, a "Pure Land" unlike those intellectual Zen types who sought for Enlightenment a la Siddhartha while they still had breath to fight.
But Itsuki rejects this interpretation of The Pure Land. There will be no paradise or re-birth, you'll just be a kinder person and take refuge in Amida's light while you spend time in your own hell of a Siberian prison, etc.
I'm not sure as to how this reinterpreatation of The Pure Land sect came about. Judging by Itsuki, it does appear to be normative today. Perhaps the original was considered too primitive and literal ( by intellectuals, of course) or perhaps it cheered the peasants up too much, thus blinding them to the truth that Suffering is All, etc.
Well, it's an interesting book, though I believe the point was better articulated in C.S. Lewis' masterpiece "A Grief Observed"
not because Lewis was a Christian, but precisely because he had -- unlike Itsuki--a happy childhood. Consequently he was fairly optimistic, sure of his religion, and in late in middle age found true love-- only to have his wife die horribly of bone cancer--whereupon his world and his faith came tumbling down.
Lewis's attempt to cope with having egg on his face after a lifetime of naivete, and his brutally honest soul searching strikes one as far more poignant than this gloom and doom autobiography.
Oh, and BTW, 'Sad To The Bone' really is the title of a section in Itsuki's book.
In the final analysis, while Itsuki's philosophy embraces pathos and sympathy for our fellow sufferers endorsing a lofty charity towards all, given his metaphysical premises arguably loftier concepts would be rendered meaningless.
There is absolutely no room for heroism, triumph or, in the classical Western sense, tragedy.
Have a nice day.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)
by Richard P. Feynman
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.01
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars They don't make mad scientists like they used to . . ., January 30, 2002
This autobiography is a joy to read.
Usually books from physicists suffer in their attempt to make the language of mathematics understandable to the public by means of analogies that confuse the issues even more.
This book will not confuse the layman. But it'll befuddle anyone lacking in a sense of humor.
Perhaps the most important question it poses is what constitutes genius? Or a man of genius? How does a brilliant mathematician go around taking wild leaps in logic and landing on his feet?
Apparently having a soul, a sense for the absurd, and a taste for babes really helps.
That's an interesting counter to all the 'self evident' sermonizing about genius being 99% hard work , the capacity for taking infinite pains, etc, etc.
Of course, one could argue that learning to pick up and score with women in one night by means of letting THEM buy YOU drinks or hanging out with the Nick the Greek in Las Vegas to fathom how he made a fortune in spite of the house odds IS very hard and painstaking work.
What can one say? Feynman had a blast. So will the reader.

Moses and Monotheism
Moses and Monotheism
by Sigmund Freud
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.71
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85 of 108 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Admit it! You hate your Dad!, January 11, 2002
This review is from: Moses and Monotheism (Paperback)
This is my favorite nut book of all time, principally because it was written by THE most original thinker of the 20th century.
A conspiracy book by a mediocre paranoid is par for the course; but one written by a genius of the first order is bound to be outstanding.
To fully understand M&M one has to be somewhat conversant with Totem and Taboo, and Freud reiterates those basic premises here as well. Briefly they are as follows:
The origin of society begins with a tribe in which the dominant male gets all the women, including his sisters and Mommy.
His sons are understandably upset at being left out of the fun and complain, so Dad kills or castrates them. Or makes the mistake of being lenient and simply drives them off.
The sons, unable to find females of their own, band together go back and murder dad. Then, of course, they eat his body.
There being too many sons (and feeling repressed guilt at killing their old man) they make taboos against incest thus establishing the rule of law.
(Bet you didn't know this was the origin of Magna Carta, et al).
This keeps the gene pool safe from inbreeding but leads to all sorts of guilt feelings which get acted out politically-- not the least of which is a worshipping of Mommy, which leads to LHM -a Literal Historical Matriarchy.
(And to think feminists dislike Freud)
Next, they get fed up with being bossed about by Mom (and who wouldn't?) so they re-establish the patriarchy; only this time they stick to the rule of law, because they can't afford further fraticidal bloodshed and they invent polytheism to boot.
But deeply repressed father hatred looms within, which leads to the final step: monotheism, in which God is an avenging Father who must be appeased before he starts castrating again. . .
(Naturally there are sub-plots--Christianity belongs to the religion of The Son who becomes more important than The Father, Islam is a attempt to restore The Father, etc.)
I forget what all this has to do with Moses, and halfway through the book, so does Freud who goes off on a tangent about how the Catholic church failed to protect him in Vienna against the Nazis, so he was forced to flee to England, where things are now better, and though he thought of destroying the manuscript he figured he was old, so what the hell, might as well publish it.
Freud refuses to use the 's' word --speculate--Or rather he waffles. At one point he admits that all he's writing is conjecture and the reader should know that and not force him to repeat it in every paragraph. But a couple of paragraphs later, he appeals to his clinical material (his patients and his own fantasies) and his deductive powers in a manner that could only be described as objective--or, to be less kind, dogmatic. Will the real S.G please stand up?
In any case, the speculations/objective deductions regarding Akhnaten, the case for there being 2 Moses's -one got murdered and presumably eaten by his children. The myth 'in reverse' of the childhood of Moses (don't ask) and what it all REALLY means make for fascinating and compelling reading.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 29, 2012 5:15 PM PST

Answer to Job (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol.11) (Bollingen Series) (v. 11)
Answer to Job (The Collected Works of C. G. Jung, vol.11) (Bollingen Series) (v. 11)
by Carl Gustav Jung
Edition: Paperback
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why have you forsaken me?, January 11, 2002
Freud was merely a rational atheist. Jung not only believes in God but in 'Answer to Job' he has the temerity to psychoanalise Him. . .
The reuslts are provocative.
Jung reasons that God was a schmuck towards Job (and by extension to all innocents who suffer from 'acts of God') due to His not being fully conscious. A strange theory since, it would seem that by definiton God is Omniscient.
However God, in Jung's model, contains all opposites and paradoxes--including choosing not to consult Himself. Had He done so, He could have seen that Job would have been faithfull to the end and not needed to take Satan's "bet".
The devil is still able to waltz into heaven in the book of Job and complain about how rotten mankind is.
Unconsciousness accounts why God allows evil, why He breaks His own covenant and commandments, and why throughout The Old Testament accounts in His dealings with Israel He often resembles a petulant child given to fits of rage towards his pet hamster.
In short, why the Jews were right to "fear" Him, big time.
In the end of, God pulls out all the stops and counters Job's anguished pleadings for an answer to his misery with a 'might makes right' speech; while all poor Job can do is declare that he knows that his 'Advocate' lives, and then shut up.
Job is the moral winner while the seed of doubt is implanted in God that He's not exactly playing cricket, and His desire to Know culminates in the 'tour the force' (Jung's words) of The Incarnation.
Jesus (the Advocate) now had to be born so that God could experience how we poor slobs muddle through down here.
Christ's mission therefore is not only to save humanity, but also God from His worse half.
On the cross, when God shouts to God: 'Why have you forsaken me?' He's finally made the grade.
The union of God and Man.

Four stars only due to Jung's heavy prose and his peppering his paragraphs with untranslated Greek--
At first the book seems like a joke (perhaps it is but is it a joke or a Joke?) but going from syllogism to syllogism Jung does builds a powerful if disturbing thesis.
Despite his protestations that this is a work of psychology, inevitably 'Answer to Job' becomes a fascinating and bizarre work of theology.

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